Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | November 8, 2009

Uncommon Woodcarving Knives

The title of this column could have just as easily been “Unusual” Woodcarving Knives.  In my years of wood carving and whittling I have come across a few knives that I find to have great worth and that most carvers at large simply do not use nor even know about.  In this article, I will discuss two such wonders and provide you with a few thoughts on them.

Hooked Knife

I have used a hooked knife for many years and find it to be a necessity.  Most knife makers and manufacturers do not make them but I have found a few that do.  The value of a hooked knife is that it allows you to make long (pulling) cuts with your hand in a much lower position than with any straight knife… thus providing well more control.  It is also a great tool for undercutting; making hair (as opposed to a v-parting tool); and handles cuts such as eye sockets with ease.  I find the control and the results to be irreplaceable.  I once gave a hooked knife to two friends of mine that were each members of the CCA and who had never used such a knife.  After a short time with the knife, they both commented on how great it was and continue to use it today.
You can simply get into places where you either can’t with a straight knife.  It makes cuts such as hair, beards, folds in clothing, seams in clothing, etc. with ease and leaves a much more realistic cut that any other knife or gouge choice.  It is also excellent for small lettering and incise work.

Two sources where I know them to be readily available are:

Cape Forge ( ).  Specifically, I am referring to Cape Forge’s No. 8 which they identify for “general purpose.”  As the name implies, Cape Forge’s tools are forged and as such have excellent edge holding ability.  The price is around $36.00.

Cape Forge 1

Cape Forge Hooked Knife

Drake Knives ( ).  Gil and Bonnie Drake do not picture the hooked knife in their on-line catalog but if you write and ask for the Keller Hooker, I am sure they can quickly provide it.  They do carry it at their booth at woodcarving shows.  I believe the price is +/- $30.00.  And, this knife offers some good flexibility which is a plus for curves and under-cutting.  One thing that sets the Drake Knives apart from others is their lifetime guarantee which includes sharpening.  For those of you that are frustrated with sharpening v-parting tools, get your next one from the Drakes and Gil will sharpen it for you forever solely for the cost of postage.

KellerHooker1 001

Drake's Keller Hooker

There are, no doubt, other makers that I am not familiar with.  Also two additional options are:  Savage Forge ( this is e-mail ) and Northbay Forge ( ).  They both offer impeccable custom work their tools are magic.

Northbay Hook 1

Custom Northbay Forge Hook Knife

The Northbay Hook Knife above was custom ordered by me for stout work and stout it is!


Jak's Knife Blade in Homemade handle

The above is a blade made by Jak’s Knife (assumed to be out of business) and a homemade handle.  The blade shape is a favorite of mine.  Jak’s Knife was similar to Warren Tools however, this blade shape was unique to Jak’s Knife.

Finesse Knife

About 6 months ago, I was introduced to the Finesse Knife.  This little beauty is shaped like a tiny butter knife blade and is sharpened on one edge and around the tip.  It is an excellent knife of relief work and lettering.  In fact, the design was developed by Dick Anderson of Savage Forge  ( – this is e-mail ) and originated from a custom order by a Lummi Tribal carver for North Coast Indian carving.  It has also found its way into the decoy carving and the caricature carving markets as well.

A real plus to this knife is that it rolls through a sweep with ease and has no point to dig in.  When using it on pull cuts, as with lettering, it rides so smoothly that you wonder if it is cutting… and it is… smooth as silk.  The sharp end (I won’t call it a “tip”) comes in handy for fine push work here and there as it is rounded just right.

As mentioned above, the knife comes exclusively from Savage Forge.  It is forged from high quality rod stock which has exceptional edge holding ability.

Finesse 1

Finesse Knife by Savage Forge

You may notice in pictures included in this column, that I have shortened some handles.  That is simply so they will fit into my carving box.  I have a large hand and each fit my hand perfectly.  It has nothing to do with not liking the length of a handle the way it came from the maker.

The above are knifes that I like a lot and have no hesitation in recommending… as with the vendors that offer them.  I am not compensated for providing any name or link in this article… I love the tools and I have had good experiences with the vendors.

Post script 2-3-2011:  See my posting on the Abegglen Detail Knife.

Please visit my web site at

Stay sharp and always be carveful!


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